Why Every Youth Coach Should Avoid Assigning Positions
Do you know what Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin's youth coaches had in common?
If you looked at the title of the article, you might already know...
They played all positions as youth. They played the guard and post positions throughout their development.
Youth players should play and get experience with all positions! That's right, every single kid should get the opportunity to play in the post, at the point, and on the perimeter.
In the U.S., we pigeonhole players WAY too early!
Assigning youth players to specific positions (ex: you're a "post player") literally stunts their growth and development. It also limits their opportunities when they get older.
Here is what you will find though out the article:
- Why placing youth players in designated positions stunts their development.
- Videos of Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin explaining their youth development.
- Solutions to placing youth players in positions, so you can develop everybody to their max potential.
Why Does Putting Youth Basketball Players in Positions Stunt Their Development?
- Kids Mature at Different Rates and Pigeonholing Limits their Opportunities
As a Player Development Coach, I can't tell you how many parents come to me saying...
"My son or daughter has always played the post. They were pigeonholed early because at the time they were the biggest. But they stopped growing and now they have no perimeter skills, dribbling skills or any confidence out on the perimeter."
If, you as a youth coach, can judge at the 3rd to 8th grade level where a player should be positioned when they are a senior in high school, then you have magical powers. Because it's impossible to tell how much a kid will grow, mature, or even what team they'll be on in 8 years.
Why would you limit a child's potential by pigeonholing him at a young age?
- Post Players Need Ballhandling Skills
To develop your post players, they need ballhandling skills. Your big men can't develop ballhandling skills if you have them run straight to the block on every possession. Your bigs need experience dribbling, passing, shooting, and catching the ball on the perimeter.
The game of basketball is changing. In today's game, most high school and college offenses have interchangeable positions, use the dribble more frequently, have bigs shooting outside, and spread things out. Players lacking the ballhandling and shooting skills are often left behind.
Just look at the big men in the NBA -- Dirk Novitski, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Kevin Garnet and Kevin Love all have something in common. All of these big men have GUARD skills. Where would they be if they didn't have the opportunity to play all positions and develop these skills at a young age?
- Guards Need Big Man Skills
Guards need to learn how to rebound, defend in the post, use their footwork, finish inside, and so on. And if you have a guard that can post up, that makes them even more valuable. These skills will make them more valuable, and you just never know which guard will grow up when they mature.
- Everybody Needs Point Guard Skills
The most challenging position on the floor is the point guard position. As a result, it's the best position for development. No matter what position you play, everyone benefits by developing point guard skills. Give other players a chance to play the point and blossom.
Why Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant Developed into the Best Players In The World!
iHoops recently came out with two great articles and videos with Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant explaining their youth development.
Here is the video with Blake Griffin talking about his youth development:
Blake Griffin played point guard for two or three years on his middle school teams. Since Blake handled the ball so much as a youth, it helped him develop guard skills. He even says that was the best thing he could have done at that age.
As a result, you have the 6'10 inside-out beast named Blake Griffin.
Now, think of all of the highlights of Blake Griffin. Often, you will see him taking the taller, slower players guarding him out to the perimeter and performing a dribble move to explode by the defender to throwdown one of his highlight reel dunks.
You also see him taking smaller opponents into the post and powering up and through them for an easy basket.
You also see him passing out of double teams with great precision.
This undoubtedly resulted from his youth basketball experience.
Here is a video of Kevin Durant talking about his youth development:
As you see in this video, Kevin Durant had a very similar experience. Thanks to his uncle's wise advice, Kevin now thrives as a 6'9 wing player.
It really begs the question. Would have Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin developed into the best players in the world if they had been stuck under the basket as a post player because they were poor ball handlers or because they were tall?
What Is The Solution to Placing Youth Players In Positions?
There are lot of ways to solve the problem. Here are just a few ideas for you to consider:
- Let them play all of the positions or use an interchangeable offense.
When it comes to an offense, you have a couple options. If your offense requires specific positions (ex: 3 out 2 in motion), you can let kids play both positions and switch things around. Let the small kids play underneath the basket. Let the big kids play on the perimeter.
Another solution is to run an offense with interchangeable positions. A good example and an offense we really like is the Open Post Motion Offense. In this offense, players are constantly moving to different areas of the floor and all players are touching the ball. When appropriate, you can teach post ups and post moves within the offense following a basket cut.
- Let a different player bring the ball up the floor every 3 to 5 minutes.
If you have a problem doing this, you can also schedule "weaker" opponents and let your weak ball handlers play point guard for the game.
- Include tons of skill drills in practice.
When players have developed a base of performing skills without a defense, one of our favorite things to do is to use 1v1 competitive skill building drills. These are great because everybody has to handle the ball, shoot, and finish in game-like situations.
Here is an article that explains this concept in more depth and it also has some great sample drills!
The Missing Link To Player Development.
Even though we advise to have everybody handle the ball during games, this is a great alternative to use during practice if you can't bring yourself to let everybody handle the ball during games.
- Preseason Meeting And Education of Parents.
Let the parents know that you are not focusing on winning. You are focusing on improving. You will be focusing on the process, not the result. Everybody will handle the ball. Everybody will play in the post.
To stress the importance, reference this article if need be!
- Create your own youth leagues or youth camps.
When Mike Zavada won over 100 games in 5 years and 3 district titles as a head varsity coach in Miami, he saw the many issues with youth basketball as he was trying to maintain the strength of the program by working with the younger players.
Mike noticed many of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders play in leagues that allow zone defenses, junk defenses, full court presses, and other tactics that work because youth players' lack of coordination, strength, and skill level due to their age to use effective methods to be successful against these tactics. You can read more about this topic at What Defense Should You Teach Youth Players (Zone, Man, Press)??
Instead of placing these kids in these situations which would stunt the development of youth players, Mike started to have a Sunday camp for youth players. By using lots of skill drills, 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, and structured scrimmaging, he started to notice a big improvement in the skill level of his youth program. When these players started playing for teams in the 5th and 6th grade, he noticed that these players were much more prepared compared to players who had been playing in these leagues prior to 5th and 6th grade.
Keep The End In Mind - Set Your Players Up For Their Best Future
As a result of this approach, you may lose a few extra games that you wouldn't have lost at the youth level. But you'll start to notice something pretty special happening to these kids as they reach the end of their middle school years and their high school years. You'll start to compete against and beat teams that you thought you would never beat. You'll also see some of your players move on to be successful players at the high school and college level because of the foundation that you laid.
Instead of having 1 or 2 guys that handle pressure, now you have 5 on the court at all times. Instead of having 1 good post player, you now have 5 who can take advantage of mismatches at any time.
It's not where you start that matters, it's where you end up.
We hope this article helped shine some light on this topic. And who knows, maybe you'll help develop the next Kevin Durant or Blake Griffin!
Please share your thoughts and opinions below!